City authorities claim above-ground station would squander 500,000 sq m of development land
Manchester city leaders have warned plans for an overground HS2 station in the city would squander half a million square metres of development land.
The bill enabling the creation of the Crewe-to-Manchester leg of High Speed Rail, which is set for its second reading in the House of Commons today, proposes a new six-platform above-ground station besides the existing Manchester Piccadilly station.
But leading political figures in the city have said such a station would scupper development opportunities and have called for an underground station, which they claim would provide a better welcome to the city and offer greater flexibility for the future.
Last month, the Commons Public Accounts Committee heard from Clive Maxwell, director general of the High Speed Rail Group in the Department for Transport, that an underground station at Piccadilly would have cost an additional £5bn.
That figure has been questioned by Manchester politicians, including Andy Burnham, who has demanded to know how the number was arrived at.
Manchester City Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority intend to submit a petition objecting to elements of the bill and asking for changes to be considered when it reaches committee.
According to the city council, independent estimates have found that almost 500,000 sq m of prime development land would be lost as a result of an overground station, space which it claims could have supported around 14,000 jobs.
It also claims that construction would be more disruptive and that the concrete viaducts required to take trains from Ardwick to the new station would be a blight on parts of the city and sever connections with East Manchester.
Modelling commissioned from Bechtel by the council and Transport for Greater Manchester reported that the proposed overground station would reach full capacity from day one.
Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said the current proposals provided “the wrong solution” for Manchester Piccadilly.
He added: “It’s the wrong solution because it will be at capacity from day one, it won’t be future-proofed, and it takes away Manchester City Council’s aspirations to have economic growth around the station.
“We have always supported HS2 and will continue to do so. But the government needs to reconsider its proposals for Manchester Piccadilly or it risks wasting a once-in-a-century opportunity to level up.”
City council leader Cllr Bev Craig said that while the underground option would cost more initially, it would deliver “enormously more economic and social benefits” over the years.
The council claims that by 2050, the economic benefits of the underground option to the wider city region would be £333m a year greater than those delivered by the overground plan.
“HS2, with Manchester as its northern hub, has the potential to unlock a wealth of positives for the region and help rebalance the UK’s economy,” said Craig.
“But if it’s not done properly, we will be counting the costs for many decades to come. It’s not too late for government to engage with us instead of dismissing the case for an underground station out of hand.”
In her keynote address to the British Council of Offices conference in Manchester last week, Joanne Roney, chief executive of the city council, said: “We have an opportunity here with HS2, which should add to this ambition of our city.
“We have yet to convince the government to share our vision of what we would like to see at Piccadilly station, to really create a globally significant opportunity here for us to remain a connected city and for us to change the face of connection between cities in the North.”
Meanwhile, HS2 has been given planning for two viaducts that will take the line into Birmingham Curzon Street station.
Curzon Viaduct No.3 and Lawley Middleway Viaduct are part of the Curzon Street Station Approach area, which is made up of four connected viaducts.
The viaducts are being designed by a joint venture of Mott MacDonald and Systra along with architect Weston Williamson + Partners. They will be built by a Balfour Beatty/Vinci joint venture.